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How to get rid of red imported fire ants in your yard

Updated on October 16, 2013

Ant mound


Facts about red fire ants

* Red fire ants are actually called Red Imported Fire Ants because their bite is fierce, fiery and painful.

* The "imported" is because they were brought here by accident on a ship from South America back in the 30's.

* These ants have the nickname "ants from hell" because they truly are. They not only bite, they attack people who have bothered their mounds. One ant will bite several times or until he is knocked off.

* Once a Queen establishes her nest, she can lay anywhere from 1000-2000 or more eggs per day.

* If a child or person is allergic to red ant bites or is bit too many times, he/she could die.

Getting rid of red imported fire ants

Here in sunny Florida, we have these horrendous red ants. They build nests everywhere in the yard. The worse thing about them besides there are so many, is that they bight. They bite hard.

After they bite, the spot that they bit swells up, hurts and itches for a couple weeks. These ants are viscous and also very hard to get rid of. In fact there aren't very many ways to kill them. Here are the ways that I know of to get rid of red fire ants:

Commercial red ant killer:

Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer is the only commercial fire ant killer that I can say really works well. I have tried a few others with minimal results. They killed some of the ants, but the ants came back rather quickly. Otho not only killed the whole mound, it was the easiest to use. You just sprinkle the Ortho Orthene fire ant killer on the ant mounds and let it do it's work.

The worker fire ants will come out of the mound and find the “food” (killer) and take it back to the other ants and the Queen. This takes about 4-7 days to completely kill the mound. The other products I used had to be wet and only killed about 75% of the ants. I don't think they even killed the Queen because the hill came back quickly right beside the old one.

Boiling water:

Boiling water does work, but it has to be boiling and you have to get under the top hill. You may need some assistance killing the fire ants this way. One person to pour the boiling water and one person to get down below the surface.

To get down below the surface of a red ant mound, have your helper grab a shovel. Then have your helper insert the shovel into the mound and push down as far as he can using his foot to help. When your helper has the shovel in the mound and pushes it to the side so you can see down into the anthill, pour the boiling water right into the hole.

You will see a lot of ants go crazy and a lot will die. Because you only kill about 60% of the ants the first time, you will need to use 2-3 large pots of boiling water for 1 mound.

I believe that people fail with this method of killing red imported fire ants because they stop after the first pot of boiling water because they don't realize how large the ant mounds are and only kill about 60% of the ants. Then the rest come back.

Seven dust:

Seven dust is a powder that can kill many different types of bugs and pests. It is normally used in the garden. It can be used around vegetable plants, fruit trees and flower plants as well as grass and of course, weeds. Just sprinkle Seven dust on and around the mound and the ants will take it back to their nests, killing themselves and the others...and hopefully, the Queen.

You can reapply Seven dust daily to the same mound if it doesn't kill the whole ant hill at once.


Any type of liquid insecticide, either using it's own sprayer or putting it in a smaller spray bottle, will kill Red Imported fire ants on contact. The problem with this is there is nothing to take into the ant mound to kill the other red ants or the Queen. That means that the ant hill will either stay where it is, or the red ants will move to another part of the lawn.

If you keep spraying them with a commercial insecticide, you just may piss them off enough that they will migrate into your neighbors lawn (if your neighbor doesn't live too far away!).

Boric Acid:

Boric acid can be used alone and just sprinkled on the fire ant mound or it can be mixed with the following ingredients to make it more appealing to the ants: sugar, peanut butter, powdered sugar or brown sugar. Ants, in general like sweet things, especially sugar. Mixing any of these ingredients with the peanut butter and boric acid will kill a colony of Red Imported fire ants.

I have had the fire ants actually not want to eat this mixture. I found decreasing the Boric Acid gets them eating it again. I have also had times when I had to do this several times to get rid of a red ant pile. I don't know why that is, but it has always worked for me.


Not oatmeal or rice, but grits. I have tried all and I have also seen mixed reviews with 75% of reviewers saying this has worked for them. It does work for me.

I truly believe this works by “blowing” them up when eating them, them having a drink of a liquid of some kind. I have sprinkled grits on the mound in the evening, then in the morning when I check, there are dead ants all over the place and the grits are almost gone.

I have also checked in the morning to find no ants, the ant hill still intact and most of the grits gone. When I disturb the red ant hill, nothing comes out. I don't really know if they die after eating the grits (although that's what I think happens) or they just left because I messed with their home, but the ants are still gone either way.

Things I have tried that do not work:

  • Dawn dish soap and water

  • Orange peels

  • Bay leaves

  • Drowning with cold water out of a hose

  • Putting ants in a bucket and moving them. You can't ever get them all.

  • Coffee grounds, new or used

  • Bleach

  • Cleanser

Some of the above items may kill on contact, but that really doesn't do you much good when your dealing with fire ants. Fire ants can only be totally eliminated if you can kill the queen. You have to be able to get the “poison” your using to the queen some way.

I hope you found this article on How to get rid of Red Imported Fire Ants informative and the tips on here useful. I have tried almost everything to get rid of the fire ants in my yard.

When I am broke, I use the home remedies, but when I have a little money, I buy the Ortho Orthene red ant killer. It's easy to use and works better than anything else I have used, including the home remedies. I hope these work for you too!


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    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I needed this. I have a couple of huge fire ant mounds.They are not very active right now. Maybe I will go attack them now. Thanks for these suggestions. Voted up and helpful.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      4 years ago from Texas

      Hi Freefogging, this is the of the two thing, I hate about summer, fire ants and Mesquite (Devil's) trees.

      I have tried all of the above and find that you are right. I have heard that cornmeal kills them also. Have not tried that yet.

      Interesting hub. Voted that way and shared.


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